OP-ED: Political revolution can stop Trans-Pacific Partnership

Political revolution can stop Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Larry Cohen, Political Director of Our Revolution, chair of Democracy Initiative
Appeared in the Monday Des Moines Register on 8/15/2016  

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For more than six months, beginning in the summer of 2015 and ending with the Iowa caucuses in February, Iowa was the center of the political revolution. Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment and asked Iowans to stand for real change. Republican candidates dropped one after another and Donald Trump, claiming to stand for change, became the eventual nominee.

But where are we now and what lies ahead?  Rightfully so, most Americans are focused on our presidential election pitting Clinton against Trump — for many of us a marked contrast and an urgent need to reject Trump and his right-wing populism marked with attacks not only on immigrants and Muslims, but also military heroes and anyone in his way.

But the march to Election Day on Nov. 8 is also the final countdown on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest multilateral so-called trade deal ever, tossing our nation in with Vietnam and Malaysia as well as Mexico and Canada and seven other nations. TPP is a so-called trade deal since it is mostly an investment deal, explicitly designed to protect the financial interests of multinational corporations and guarantee their profits — giants of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, Wall Street and other sectors. While the president and supporters in Congress discuss the benefits of free trade, nearly every chapter was written by the multinational corporations in that sector, and Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the core of nearly every U.S. deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), allows the multinationals to sue governments for reparations if governments take any action post ratification that harms future corporate profits.

President Obama has confirmed again that he intends to use Fast Track provisions to force a vote in Congress on TPP late this year, after the election, but before the new Congress begins in January. Many of the members of Congress will not be returning in January, so conventional wisdom makes those members and their colleagues more persuadable during the lame duck session that normally ends right before Christmas.

Not only is TPP potentially the largest multilateral agreement ever, it is also forever. The incoming president and Congress and all of their successors cannot ever change a single word unless all 12 nations agree. Amazingly, we are being set up for a vote on TPP at a time when most Americans have shut down on politics, but also a time when corporate lobbyists will be fighting fiercely for adoption.

Iowa CCI Action has been sounding the alarm on TPP for years. Once again, Iowa family farmers will get a back seat compared with pesticide giants. Once again environmental issues will be subject to corporate lawsuits governed by ISDS if Iowa or the U.S. or any nation raises its environmental standards and a foreign corporation can claim that their future profits are hurt. For example, Trans Canada is suing the U.S. for $15 billion for denying the permits for the Keystone Pipeline and using the ISDS provisions of NAFTA to trigger the secret tribunal process that is above our own courts.

When Iowa CCI Action convenes its convention on Aug. 20 in Des Moines, we cannot simply focus on politics as usual, or the dangers of Donald Trump. We need to focus on the dangers of the TPP and the enormous coalition of the White House, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the thousands of corporate lobbyists that profit by politics as usual in Washington, D.C.  As we organize for election day on Nov. 8, we need to mobilize Americans across the political spectrum to Stand Up and Fight Back to defeat the TPP and continue the political revolution that Iowa helped start.

Larry Cohen is the political director of Our Revolution, a successor organization to Bernie 2016. He is also the chair of the Democracy Initiative and the immediate past president of the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America. 

Larry is the keynote speaker at the Iowa CCI Action Fund “People-Powered Politics” convention, Aug. 20 in Des Moines.  The event will be held at First Christian Church and run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Register today!

Contact: lcohen@cwa-union.org